Medical Exercise Professionals vs Personal Fitness Trainers

Whats the Difference?


Medical exercise professionals are a growing group of exercise practitioners who bridge the gap between healthcare and fitness. Overall, the number of practitioner who provide these services are still only around 2-4% of the health and fitness industry. Personal fitness trainers comprise a much larger portion of the industry. Each offer exercise training services but, there are differences.


Scope of Practice


Medical exercise professionals (MEPs) provide exercise and lifestyle programming for individuals who have medical conditions. MEPs work hand in hand with your medical professionals to help maintain or improve your health through the rehabilitative process. However, medical exercise professionals do not provide physical therapy or any form of treatment. Personal fitness trainers (PFTs) are limited to mostly working with individuals who are asymptomatic. PFT’s help individuals work on strength, stability, conditioning, weight loss, and may work with hypertensive and diabetic clients. PFT’s are important practitioners to help promote public health and fitness but should not be relied upon for helping to manage medical conditions.


Services by Medical Exercise Professionals 


Medical exercise professionals can focus in areas of expertise. Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEPs) for instance, work typically in cardiac rehab for cardiopulmonary conditions. RCEPs provide cardiopulmonary testing, program design, implementation, and may work with some musculoskeletal conditions.


Medical Exercise Specialists (MES) at Medical Exercise Trainers® (METs) work typically with individuals who have musculoskeletal conditions. MESs and METs provide musculoskeletal and cardiovascular assessments, program design, implementation, and may work with some cardiopulmonary and neuromuscular disorders. 


Stages of Health and Who’s Involved


At Medical Exercise Trainers®, we are working to better define wellness and fitness since both terms are nebulous and individuals need a more clear idea of where they fall in the stages of health. The stages of health are sick (medical care), well (wellness), and fit (fitness). Sickness is the state of being ill with limited or lost physical and/or mental function(s). Wellness is the state of minimal function required not to be ill or improved function with the presence of illness. Fitness is the state of optimal function for a given task measured in total mental and/or physical work capacity. 


Medical professionals such as physical therapists typically work within the sick and wellness categories. PFTs work within the wellness and fitness categories. Medical exercise professionals work to bridge individuals from sick to wellness to fitness. 


When to See Each Professional


If you have an acute condition such as knee pain that is a 10 out of 10 on the pain scale, see your physician or physical therapist. If you are transitioning out of physical therapy or have a chronic condition such as hypertension, find a medical exercise professional. If you just want to get more fit and maybe lose some weight, then see a medical exercise professional or personal fitness trainer.

Health professionals have their lanes and roles. Each are working in the continuum of health. Understanding how each can serve you will go a long way in your health journey.


For more information on Medical Exercise Trainers®, go to 

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